NEWARK, N.J. -- The publisher and editor of New Jersey's largest newspaper are suing a man who they claim purchased online domain addresses that used their names and directed users to a pornographic site out of revenge.
Star-Ledger publisher Richard Vezza and Editor Kevin Whitmer filed a federal lawsuit against Cranbury, N.J., resident Alfred Demola this week.
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The suit claims Demola purchased the domain names richardvezza.com and kevinwhitmer.com and rerouted them to a hard-core pornography site.
"I think it's pretty obvious that our names are being misused in a way that we find very distressing and embarrassing," Vezza told The Associated Press.
The newspaper published seven stories between 2010 and 2013 about Demola. He owned waterproofing businesses and, the paper reported, allegedly engaged in unscrupulous business practices.
Demola allegedly did not return a $3,000 deposit to an elderly couple and did poor work on other homes, the paper reported. Demola's home number and those of his businesses, Aqua-Dri Waterproofing and Thrifty Waterproofing, were not in service.
The suit claims Demola called the freelance reporter who wrote the pieces published in the newspaper's "Bamboozled" consumer business column in September and told her that Vezza and Whitmer should "ask if they want to buy their domain names from me."
Demola also allegedly called Whitmer's home and office, demanding the paper stop writing about him, and threatening to publicize the personal information of Star-Ledger staff, according to the suit.
Lawyers demanded Demola give the authorization codes for the websites, which were purchased from GoDaddy.com, but he did not. The sites no longer contain pornography and now direct users to GoDaddy.com.
Vezza and Whitmer are asking for $100,000 each in damages, attorney's fees and that Demola relinquish the domain names, ensuring that they aren't "used again for any embarrassing purposes or to try to intimidate us," Vezza said.
Vezza and Whitmer are both well-known, long-time New Jersey journalists.
"If it can happen to us it can happen to other journalists as well," Vezza said, fearing it could be "a new device to try to intimidate the press."